The word crime is defined as conduct in violation of the criminal laws of a state, the federal government, or a local jurisdiction for which there is no legally acceptable justification or excuse (Schmallager, 2011, p. 7). In other words crime is an action taken that violates local, state, or federal laws that is not legally justified or excused. Crime is related to the law because crime is in itself defined by the laws of the city, state, and country that we live.
An example would be that it is illegal or a crime to smoke in any public area in the city of Burbank while in the city of Los Angeles it is perfectly alright to smoke on a public sidewalk. The most common models of how society determines which acts are criminal are legalistic, political, sociological and psychological. The Legalistic perspective of crime is actions that are against the law. The Political perspective of crime is actions that go against powerful groups and the status quo.
The sociological perspective of crime is an antisocial act that needs to be repressed to maintain society. The psychological perspective of crime is when an individual cannot respond effectively or appropriately to demands of their environment. One of these perspectives cannot help define crime on its own because all of them have distinguishable flaws. The three components of the criminal justice system are the police, the courts, and corrections. The police enforce the law, investigate crime, apprehend offenders, maintain public order, and more.
The courts conduct fair and impartial trials, decide criminal cases, ensure due process, uphold the law, and more. Corrections carries out sentences imposed by the courts, provides safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders, protects the community, and more. These three components or agencies work together to ensure justice and enforce the law. The police apprehend a criminal and investigate the crime. Then the courts conduct a fair trial of the accused criminal and impose a sentence.
Finally corrections carries out the sentence imposed by the courts, be it incarceration or rehabilitation (Schmallager, 2011). The criminal justice process is composed of five steps: investigate and arrest, pretrial activities, trial, sentencing, and corrections. The investigation and arrest step of the process involves gathering evidence using warrants and booking a suspected criminal. The pretrial step of the process involves first appearance, preliminary hearing, information or indictment, and arraignment.
The trial step of the process involves examining all the facts of the case and convicting or acquitting the person accused of the crime. The sentencing step of the process involves the sentencing of a guilty party to one or multiple counts. Some examples of possible sentences are incarceration, probation, community service, or paying a fine. They can either have consecutive sentences meaning one after another or concurrent sentences meaning at the same time. The final step of the process is corrections, which simply means carrying out the sentence imposed by the trial.
The criminal process system is balanced on two objectives due process and crime control. These two objectives are important because they ensure a safe community and a fair trial for all. The courts and the police work together to investigate a crime and apprehend the offender while at the same time ensuring that the accused has their due process. These two objectives can collide when the police want to get an offender off the streets and control crime by charging them even though there is not enough evidence for the court to fully convict.
The police choose to control crime by removing an offender from the street and into the system even if it is only for a limited time. On the other hand the courts wish that they didn’t have to shift hopeless cases and get to series ones where a criminal has the potential of a conviction. The true way for these two components to work effectively together is to ensure a thru investigation of every case. Can the criminal justice system truly be classified as a system? I think that the criminal justice system in theory is created to be a true system.
The problems with the reality of the criminal justice system are the rivalry and competition between the different agencies. The competition stems from government funding. Each agency has to compete for funding for their programs. The competitive nature of their relationships often creates unwillingness to share information. Each agency wants to prove that they are the most valuable and efficient agency and should get the most funding. This makes it hard to classify criminal justice as a system because a system is defined as components that work together toward one goal.
These agencies don’t always work together because each one has their own agenda for future or current funding. I agree with Mr. Brian Pierce from Georgia State University when he says that the criminal justice system can more accurately be classified as a process or set of stages. At this moment I cannot think of a better solution for awarding funding and aligning government agencies into a system without really doing research into the matter. Hopefully new ideas on how to help correct or improve some facets of the criminal justice system will make it a more effective system in the future.
Schmallager, F. (2011). Criminal justice today. An introductory text for the 21st century (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.